The Devils will seek to carry their state to another Finals berth after Hurricane Sandy's destruction.
No other state was affected more by Hurricane Sandy than New Jersey. For almost two days in late October, the super storm destroyed and shredded apart the Jersey shore and left many residents without homes and power, and some communities were completely underwater. That is why the start to the 2012-2013 hockey season was desperately needed for all of New Jersey.
With the Nets departing for Brooklyn, the Devils are now the only major sports team to represent the Garden State (even though the Giants and Jets train AND play in New Jersey, but that discussion is for another day). Just as football returning to the Super Dome was vital for the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the Devils can offer the same type of relief for New Jersey.
The horrors of Hurricane Sandy were not forgotten before the Devils’ home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The jumbo screen above center ice showed countless images of ocean water spilling out onto land and rushing into buildings. The audio played news reports that recounted the damage that the hurricane caused. In an emotional end to the video, an audio clip of Governor Christie was played of him saying that New Jersey would never be the same after this natural disaster, also a haunting image of the famous roller coaster at the Seaside Boardwalk, now laying in the Atlantic Ocean, filled the screen.
Those sad pictures were replaced, however, with the highlight of Adam Henrique scoring in overtime in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals to send the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals over the Rangers. The crowd erupted into an applause that had not been heard in New Jersey for months, and only got louder as more Devil scoring highlights were put on display.
This is what the Devils can bring to New Jersey. Not new homes or towns or businesses, but they can give the residents hope, entertainment and help take everyone’s mind off some of the hardships of life. Even though former captain Zach Parise signed with the Wild this past offseason to return back to his home state in Minnesota, there are plenty of reasons to believe that New Jersey can repeat the success they saw last year.
Parise was the leader of the Devils last season, and replacing the intangibles that a captain brings to a team is always difficult. However, New Jersey has moved on, and named defenseman Bryce Salvador the new leader of the Devils. Salvador is known for his gritty, tough defensive play and should serve well as captain.
Also, New Jersey is returning their top point scorers in Ilya Kovalchuk (83 points last season) and Patrik Elias (78 points). Also coming off of a huge season is David Clarkson (46 points) and he already has two goals in the first two games of the season. The Devils have outscored their opponents so far 5-1 and that has been without Adam Henrique, who was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Award last season, because he has been out with an injured thumb. His presence will only benefit the club.
Finally, and most importantly, the shorter season should be a huge benefit to veteran goalie Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is forty and the wear and tear of an 82 game season can really slow down his production. The less amount of games that Brodeur has to play, the fresher he should remain throughout the season and into the playoffs. For example, Brodeur's postseason stats last year generated ratios of 2.12 goals allowed per game and a .917 SV% in comparison to his regular-season figures were 2.41 and .908. Obviously, the playoff game statistics are taken from a smaller sample size, but it shows that Brodeur plays better in shorter stretches of time.
With their 2-0 start, including their emotional shutout home opening win over the winless Flyers, there’s a good chance the Devils can give New Jersey something to cheer about again.